Saturday, September 25, 2010

In the Name of God

There are a number of things we do In the Name of God – we perform long and arduous poojas, we undertake punishing fasts, we chant lots of verses, we visit far off places of worship – but what is the basis of all these doings? Did God really want His devotees to incur so much pain to please Him?

Temple visits today have become painful tasks for common devotees. The commercialization of temples is a much publicized fact today. For every single step, there is money to be paid – tickets, Prasad, everything today comes at a price.

I recently visited a temple in Karnataka. Due to some renovation work in the temple, the darshan timings had been changed from 4:30 PM to 7 PM. We reached at 4 PM only to realize that we still had 2.5 hrs to kill before darshan. Unfortunately, there was not a single waiting area to be seen. Worse still, it began raining thereby compounding the woes of all the stranded devotees. The security guards were having a field day driving away people who were trying to take shelter under the main roof of the temple.

A long and painful wait later, the queue gates were opened for devotees at 5 PM. We finally had a roof above our heads. But no seats were available and we had to sit on the floor till 7 PM when the temple gates were finally opened. Phew! A typical South Indian Temple visit scenario!

Usually, no food is taken before any major pooja. But that means, if due to any reason the pooja gets delayed, the person performing has to undertake an impromptu fast…! This happened to me last year. I was up at 6 AM as the pooja was supposed to take place at 6:30. But the pooja got delayed and didn’t take place till around 10:30 AM. All the while I was trying to survive on an empty stomach with just water and some fruit which I was not feeling like to have. Luckily, the ritual was performed before I could faint. How I enjoyed breakfast on that day!

I was recounting this episode to a friend of mine who made a pertinent point – my devotion need not be measured by how long I have starved… he asked me to keep some biscuits or something handy the next time there is a pooja at home so I need not suffer like that again. I saw the point – after all, spoiling one’s health is definitely not the motive behind any pooja, right? So this time, I had a few biscuits with me which I munched whenever I felt faint…: -)

It is common for people to ask for fulfillment of wishes at any temple, probably famed to be wish fulfilling. When I was in Hyderabad, I visited the Chilkoor Balaji temple there which has supposedly been modeled on the Tirupati Balaji temple. Chilkoor Balaji is famed as ‘Visa God’. The reason behind this nomenclature is that the area around the temple (Mehdipatnam) has a lot of engineering colleges where the desire of most students is to go abroad. They would visit the temple and pray for Visa. Sooner or later the wish would be granted and thus, the name ‘Visa God’ stuck!

But I sometimes doubt the rationale behind asking for wishes like job satisfaction, marriage or kid at a temple. Isn’t the fulfillment of these wishes more in our hands than in God’s? And the Pandits then have a good time making the devotees perform various poojas to supposedly fulfil these wishes and thereby the devotees end up spending a lot of money. The dakshina that Pandits earn these days support a lifestyle similar to that of a high ranking official in an MNC (I am not joking!). In fact, in places like Mumbai where devotees are hard pressed for time, Pandits customize the long shlokas making them shorter and less time consuming!

As we move in a more modernized era, people should become more rational in their approach to God. But I don’t see any change… and people continue doing impractical things… all In the Name of God!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wedding Vignettes

Weddings in the family can be real fun time for relatives having a get together. Though there is usually a lot of work to be done and things get hectic, all that is forgotten in the fun had. And in this melee, there usually take place a lot of incidents which send a laugh around and also make the event memorable for all! Here I share a few vignettes from the various weddings I have attended.

`````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Who Kaun Tha?

2 days before my maamu’s wedding we all had gathered in a circle to arrange the gifts for the guests. The gifts comprised of saris for the women and shirt piece/pant piece for the men. We were putting the stuff into packets and stapling the names of the intended recipients on them. Healthy banter was on and people were generally commenting on the gifts.

Suddenly Deepti Aunty (a neighbor come in to help) exclaimed loudly…

“Arre, yeh Mohammad kaun hai? Sach sach batao, kisne aapki family main love marriage ki hai?!”
We were all flabbergasted as we knew there is no Mohammad in our family and no inter religious match till then. Suddenly we heard my maasi guffawing…

“Arre, Mohammad hamare driver ka naam hai… this shirt is for him…. Not for some family member!!!”

We all burst out laughing and a sheepish Deepti Aunty joined in soon!

Kahin Ye Wo To Nahi…!

At a recent wedding I attended, I saw a car with a prominent BJP logo on it. I wondered which BJP dignitary had come in, but later forgot about it. Later, Deepu bhaiyya told us how he pulled a fast one on our very simple Chandan Mama with the help of that BJP logo car.

The guy who owned the car coincidentally bore an uncanny resemblance to BJP president Nitin Gadkari. Deepu bhaiyya told Chandan Mama that the visitor is none other than the BJP president himself!!!

Chandan: What…? But how has he managed to come without a convoy and guards?
Deepu: Arre mama, I know him personally, so he has come for a personal visit without informing his convoy!
Chandan: I want go do Namaste to him.
Deepu: By all means! Just don’t call him by name, else his cover gets blown and word spreads. Ok? Chandan: Ok!

Poor Chandan mama went and did a respectful Namaste to that Mr. X of the BJP logo car. Mr. X was surprised, but returned the greeting expecting Chandan Mama to be some acquaintance he is not able to remember (in weddings u do tend to meet long forgotten people after all!). He kept by his side throughout the wedding and later dropped him off at his car (the effect was of course compounded by that huge BJP logo!).

Of course, Deepu Bhaiyya let Chandan mama believe that he had met Nitin Gadkari. :- ) And after he left, we were all regaled with the story of this charade. Boy, did we laugh… poor Chandan Mama!!!

Bhajji Khao Khud Jaan Jao

At this wedding I attended, there were a huge number of guests. I was a school kid then and had the company of 7-8 of my cousins of the same age group. At that wedding there was a large variety of bhajjis on platter. Cabbage, capsicum, mixed veg, cauliflower… spicy fried balls of all these and more were to be served to the guests.

Now, the caterers were short staffed and so we kids were requested to lend a hand with the serving. And since bhajjis are easy to serve around, we were given the responsibility of the bhajjis. Wrong decision!!!

We kids carried the bhajji trays and started slowly moving along the guests’ line. But for every few bhajjis we served, we popped a few in our mouths! This continued till the serving was done. We were thanked for our services and asked to start our lunches. It was then that we realized that we were simply not hungry! The bhajjis had filled our stomachs so much that we had no space left for the main course.

Our elders couldn’t understand our reluctance to have lunch. And when they understood the reason, they had a good laugh! I guess they realized we had been punished enough for our mischief by being unable to do justice to the great wedding lunch!!!

Weddings are funny… momentous event for the couple being united in holy matrimony and fun times for the family having got together for the function. And vignettes like these really add to the charm of weddings!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Yeh Rista Kya Kehlata Hai…?

Leave everything a little better than you found it it a situation, a thing or a relation!

In life, we live with a lot of relations – Parents, siblings, friends, spouse, in-laws, kids… it is a long list. But there are also people we come across in life with whom we share relationships which do not come in any conventional category. These relationships are hardly permanent, if they last long they definitely end up in any of the mentioned categories! But these people enrich our lives in a way exclusive to them and then move away… leaving us reaping the benefits of our association with them.

‘Koi sacche khwaab dikhakar, aankho mein sama jaata hai… Yeh rishta kya kehlata hai…?’

I had a classmate during my MBA days who is an apt example of the lines above. I have always described him as a candle which burns willingly giving light to others. Though to others the things he did for his friends would appear normal, not deserving such poetic descriptions, people close to him know what they meant to him.

Whenever hostel life became too heavy for me, I cried on his shoulder. Whenever accounts made no sense to me (being an engg graduate) he helped me out with his notes. Whenever I felt low, he would push me by telling me that I am the best… so much so that, towards the end of my MBA, I had a huge treasure trove of confidence which held me in good stead through my initial struggle in my 1st job. It was he who goaded me into Finance, which I felt I had no aptitude for. So in that sense, what I am today in my career is majorly thanks to him. I could never decide what he really meant to me… hence decided to put it in the nameless relation category… we are not in touch today… and I could never thank him properly for being there for me… but his is one relation I made which will always hold a special place in my life!

A few of my friends have confided in me that they have been close to people, mostly of the opposite sex, with whom they shared platonic relationships which were closer than friendships but shied from getting deeper and after some time, went separate ways. Has this got something to do with the typical Indian mentality which finds it hard to accept long lasting friendships between people of opposite sexes?

A few months back I was on my lowest ebb ever personally. I loved being depressed; I loved snapping at people, I basically was enjoying being a shrew, believing that things will never improve for me. But another nameless relationship raised its head in my life.

‘Tum jo aaye, zindagi mein, baat ban gayi’

What all things had I forgotten in my life which I really loved doing? For starters, he kicked me into restarting blogging. Though a lot many people had earlier advised me to do it, the way he persuaded I felt I just had to do it. Once I restarted writing, I felt like myself again. What things are necessary to keep me happy? Well, according to him, 5 things:

1. Wear good clothes
2. Listen to soothing music
3. Read nice books
4. Think good thoughts
5. Don’t forget good days

Too simple? Maybe, but once I started trying to follow them, I found myself feeling that much better about myself! Today, I am no more the wreck I was a few months back… I am living my second chance (as I said in my earlier post) and am trying to find my own happiness…

‘Tujh mein rab dikhta hai, yaara main kay karoon?’

I have been lucky to have had these beautiful people in my life… but their real success will be if I can continue the tempo they provided me even after they go their way… Thanks Guys for being there for me…!!!


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Karnala Trek

August 07, 2010 saw me going to the 1st trek of my life. And boy! Was it an experience!! I frankly had no idea what a trek would entail. A friend told me about the following essentials for a basic trek:

1) Sports Shoes with good grip
2) Windcheater to protect from rain

I was not willing to spend money on a one-off trek by buying the above stuff. Luckily I have cousins who go on treks often. So I borrowed from them!

The day dawned pleasantly rainy, just as required. I was just hoping that the weather would be equally good at Karnala Fort where we were going trekking. The usual hiccups of not finding the bus on time overcome; we were finally on our Way!

The lovely K Star Woods resort was where we were headed. Once there, we could not wait to get to the trek!

Bird Sanctuary

The trek was to begin from a Bird Sanctuary which would lead up to the Karnala Fort. The Bird Sanctuary itself wasn’t really great… I could hear a Peacock but couldn’t see it as the grills of the cage were too meshed up. A cursory glance at 3 cages containing birds, we were on our way to the Karnala Fort!


The Karnala Fort Trek was supposedly a trek for beginners. Hence I was quite cool and looking forward to it. The trek began quite tamely as we were not aware that we were actually on the trek! But once we started slowly moving up, realization dawned. And a few dropped out to enjoy at the resort instead.

A few minutes into the trek, I was already panting and wondering how long I would be able to go on. But not one to chicken, I valiantly continued my struggle along with a few others who were also on their first trek. It didn’t help to realize that one half of our 16 strong group was already not visible… they were regular hikers and hence, found this trek child’s play!

The route was difficult in patches and plain in others. It always turned out that a particularly difficult patch was followed by plain one, thereby suitably rewarding the trekkers. Here is the plain ground after one very difficult patch of climb… awesome view!!!


Of our group, Bharat was noticed to be the most agile trekker. His nimble steps and confident movement earned him the nick name of ‘Mowgli’. Mowgli hopped skipped and jumped his way through the trek, but not before giving a handy hand to the ones who are not as lucky as him.
At one point, when all of us were too exhausted to move further, I noticed the ever lithe Mowgli munching away… hmmm… so what is it that is the secret of the great Mowgli’s prowess? Mumbai’s famous ‘Vada Pav’…!

Yeah! Bharat openly revealed the secret of his stamina to be the good ol’ Vada Pav… check out how the glutton is munching away when we are trudging our way through the uneven terrain of the trek!

Special Kids

A huge group of kids were also noticed trekking along with us. The little kids were extremely fast and enthusiastic about their outing… made me feel they probably don’t get many of them often… at a closer glance I noticed that the poor kids were trekking the terrain in ill fitting gear. Most were wearing shoes much bigger than their little feet and were clothed in school uniform with nothing to protect from the incessant rain. But still… what attitude… they ran, jumped, crawled… basically did everything to ensure their short frames completed the trek which adults like us were finding difficult to continue. We later came to know that those kids were in fact orphans, brought for a rare outing by an NGO. Kudos to all the people behind the radiant smiles of those under privileged kids. But please… next time, could they have better gear?

200 Meters Left…Happy?

A long last, we came across a board mentioning the Karnala Fort to be 200 Mts away. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief… I mean, 200 Mts is nothing compared to the distance we had already covered, right…? Hmmm… A small details which the board did not cover was that the fort was at a distance of 200 Mts, but not horizontal – VERTICAL!

All of us got a huge shock when we saw the last stretch of the trek. A mostly impossible looking vertical climb with some rusty railings not looking in anyway capable of being held. People who had hitherto been pushed and goaded into completing the trek started losing it now… This is how the entrance to the fort looked to us from where we were standing:

A lot of discussion later, we decided to go for it… of course, with the rider that anyone would be allowed to quit and wait down if the confidence wanes. And thus began our journey to conquer the ‘last legion’.

So someone pulled, some others pushed, some dragged and finally, WE MADE IT!!! Yeah! All of us… even the most terrified ones, made it to the fort. And boy! What a reward! The view there was superb. It was pelting rain and my windcheater had stopped shielding me from the rain a long time back. Soaked to the skin I took in the sight of the ruins of the fort. The moats around were filled with water and the whole thing had an old world charm. Due to the heavy rain, no more pics were possible. Hence the moments lie captured in my mind. Here we were reunited with the rest of our group (who had reached the summit earlier) and cheers and victory signs were flashed all around.

The return journey was made difficult by the incessant rain which was sending rivulets of water down the entire path making the route slippery. Someone aptly summarized our journey with the song ‘Zindagi har kadam ek nayi jung hai!’… we really did feel every step was akin to stepping into war zone… whether we would slip of sail would only be known later!

The Detour

“Hey, are we supposed to go down this waterfall or what?”, Dhaval’s started shout unnerved us… a few of us had moved away from the main group and were cruising along, when we realized that we had reached a dead end. There was a waterfall in which we could go down (but we were supposed to be trekking, not rafting!) which was definitely not the right way to go. We realized something really scary… we have taken the wrong route and we are lost!!!

The thing that pained me the most was that we would have to go up again to some distance in search of the right path… but there was no other option and we started going up trek again. A few minutes later we luckily spotted a few trekkers who showed us the right way to go down. Thanking our lucky stars, we continued downwards.

The distant screech of a peacock made us realize that we are finally at where we started… the Bird Sanctuary. We couldn’t control our shouts of joy as we realized that we have managed to complete our trek successfully. I was also relieved that the trek turned out fine; I didn’t faint, didn’t chicken out and completed the trek well. Cheers!

The Aftermath

“Aaaargh…!!!”, that’s me, trying to get myself off the bed on Sunday morning. My arms and legs were feeling non existent and I was trying to get up like a laachaar quadruple amputee. I got through Sunday with difficulty but Monday was another story… I found it difficult to run for the bus, I decided not to climb the railway bridge at the station and did not use the stairs in office. Though there was a slight improvement from Sunday, I felt that I had moved from quadruple amputee like state to a weak in the legs like state. Phew!!!

But all said and done, the trek was an event to remember… here’s to the health of all of us… Cheers!!!